Nebraska football fans will be watching spring practice closely, to get some idea of what NU will be like next autumn. Head coach Bo Pelini will have a lot on his mind, trying to repair a leaky defense and keep the offensive momentum from 2012 going.
But what are Pelini’s biggest worries? What’s keeping him up at night between now and the Spring Game?
Offensively, Nebraska will be returning quite a few starters. But on defense, it’s not inconceivable to think that only two starters will have any kind of significant playing experience.
That’s a big problem, especially given how much responsibility Pelini puts on his defense to read and react to what the offense is showing. Perhaps the biggest question of all this spring is how quickly Pelini will be able to install his defense with the influx of new Blackshirts.
Auburn transfer Jonathan Rose looks pretty well set as one starting cornerback. (Of course, so did junior college transfer Mohammed Seisay this time last year, so take “pretty well set” for what it’s worth.) Other than that, there are a whole bunch of players that will be vying for position on the secondary depth chart.
On one hand, that’s a good thing, as it means there is a lot of talent and a lot of competition at each position. On the other hand, it means Pelini will have a big job ahead of him to pick his starters and allow them to play together and gain some cohesion.
OK, I know, Pelini probably isn’t saying “shoot.” But this is a family-friendly website.
With the graduation of Baker Steinkuhler and the departure of Chase Rome, Nebraska looks awfully green at defensive tackle. A number of players from last year who did not get playing time, including redshirt freshman Vincent Valentine and senior Thad Randle returning from injury, look to slot in on the interior of the line along with guys like Aaron Curry and Kevin Williams.
Much like with the secondary, Pelini will want to figure out his defensive tackle rotation as best he can this spring, a rotation that may be altered with the arrival of some of Pelini’s 2013 recruiting class next semester.
Yes, you’re right. If Pelini is unlikely to say “shoot,” he’s even more unlikely to say “darn.”
All three of Nebraska’s starting linebackers from 2012 have departed, leaving the field completely open for competition. David Santos and Trevor Roach are the only returning linebackers with any significant experience, and they will be competing with Jared Afalava, Zaire Anderson, Max Pirman, and Thomas Brown for positions on the depth chart. Early-enrollee Courtney Love may also factor into the mix, while incoming freshmen Josh Banderas and Marcus Newby will have to wait until the autumn to earn their spots on the depth chart.
Fiddlesticks. Presented without comment.
Nebraska’s two best starting tight ends, Ben Cotton and Kyler Reed, both graduated in 2012. That means the only tight end with any experience will be senior Jake Long, who has not to this point demonstrated much ability to be a receiving threat.
(Although, given how little Cotton and Reed were utilized last season, it could be argued the difference may be negligible.)
Redshirt freshmen Jared Blum, Sam Cotton, and sophomore Eddie Ridder will get their chance to shine this spring, giving Pelini a good opportunity to see what he has on the roster currently. In the autumn, incoming freshmen Cethan Carter and Greg Hart (along with walk-ons Connor Ketter and Erik Evans) will be added to the mix, giving Pelini even more to think about before kickoff against Wyoming on August 31.
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